If you build them (bike lanes), riders will come: Oak Bay councillor

Oak Bay looks at roadway improvements for cyclists

Coun. Michelle Kirby wants to see the day when cyclists can rival the number of cars on the roads of Oak Bay.

The Active Transportation Advisory Committee, on which Kirby sits, believes the change should start with improvements at the intersection of Haultain Street and Foul Bay Road.

The problem is, once riders arrive at Foul Bay, they have to either wait for a break in often heavy traffic to get across the road, or dismount their bicycles and use the pedestrian crosswalk.

“It may seem like a minor thing,” Kirby said. “But if we want to encourage people to use that route and want to make it safe and convenient and easy, then we need to put in some infrastructure to support that.”

Regionally, Haultain Street has been identified as a “bicycle corridor” due to its direct route to downtown and its minimal traffic. But as soon as it enters Oak Bay, at this intersection, its bike friendliness disappears, said Kirby. Fort St. is the other option, but it loses its bike lane once it hits Oak Bay.

“(We’re) trying to get (Oak Bay) in line with the rest of the region,” Kirby said. “It’s been identified as a corridor in the regional master plan, but we haven’t done anything to facilitate or encourage cycling.”

Critics say there aren’t enough cyclists to justify spending the money to make any changes, Kirby said. She believes the opposite is true, that the number of cyclists on the road will increase only after the money has been spent to improve infrastructure for cyclists.

Kickstand, a presentation by two European cycle infrastructure experts to council on March 11, has inspired council and staff, Kirby said. In 30 years, Denmark has seen a 25 per cent increase in the number of people using bicycles for transportation, for a current level of 36 per cent.

“They’ve done it by making the facilities so easy to use it’s easier to ride your bike than to take a car. There’s a huge incentive there.”

What the committee would like to see is a bylaw establishing another crosswalk installed on the north side of Haultain, with markings identifying its use for mounted cyclists. Dave Marshall, director of engineering, said city staff are trying to find a solution cohesive with the Motor Vehicle Act and are looking at what other municipalities have done.

Twenty “wayfinding” signs are in the works for Haultain, which will give directions to cyclists arriving in Oak Bay on how to get to various locations, such as the Recreation Centre or Estevan Village. The budget for the signs has not been approved yet, but $3,000 is being requested to be set aside.

There is no estimate of costs for a crossing yet and no current plans for its inclusion in the upcoming budget.

Kirby said she would like to see all changes implemented in time for summer.